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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Great Thing About Parenting... CAR SEATS (BOOSTERS)

I'm a rebel. I break North Carolina's child passenger safety law....

Well, kind of. Maybe not-so-much. According to this law, a child can stop using a booster seat and sit in the car with a seat belt when they are 8 years old or 80 pounds. I say that is wrong and ridiculous. My ten-year-old still uses a booster seat, and I will NOT apologize or be convinced that I am wrong.

So, let's get this discussion going. If you are new to the blog, here is the intro to the "The Great Thing About Parenting..." series. The rules are easy - this is a discussion, not a debate; be nice. This is not about who is right or wrong (I'll try to keep it that way myself with this topic...); this is about sharing what we do, why, etc. Simple enough. If you disagree, I still want you to join in! All opinions welcome. Let's all just remember to show respect.

This is going to be a multi-post topic. I'll be discussing booster seats more in this one, as that's one area we have to consider with our older child. Many people move their children out of booster seats WAY too soon, and some do it because they think they're doing the right thing - following the law. But if you look farther into the matter, I hope you'll see why the laws can be flawed...

If you look beyond this law into why a child needs a car seat or booster, you will quickly learn when it really is appropriate for them to go without and rely only on a seat belt. I wish more people would do this. Or that laws would be changed to instruct people when a child really can safely sit without a booster. If this were the case, my ten-year-old would not be a minority in this case. I know of very few children his age that sit in boosters. In fact, I know of too many children that are way younger and get to sit in the *FRONT SEAT* of a car with only a seat belt. Please don't tell me if you let your young child do this. I don't want to know. Well, I kind of do because I would want to smack you and tell you that you are CRAZY and putting your child in danger. But you probably don't want that, so it might be best to keep it to yourself. (I wouldn't actually do it...just want to.)

Actually, while this is probably one of the parenting topics I am MOST passionate about, it is one that I do not lecture people on. I try not to lecture in general. I have friends that disagree about this topic. We know how each other feels (you know who you are...), and we have simply agreed to disagree. I will say what I think is right and best, but I don't push and lecture and refuse to be friends with someone who feels differently. We each do what we think is right/best for our children; I truly believe that most people base their decisions/actions on doing what they think is best for their children/family. When faced with the information, it all comes down to each parent deciding what is best for their own child. I can't make those decisions for you, just as you can't do that for me.

Here is an excerpt from North Carolina's child passenger safety law:

Restraint Required:
» A properly used child restraint device (CRD) is required if the child is less than 8 years old AND weighs less than 80 pounds. Most parents and other care givers will be able to comply by using belt-positioning booster seats for children between 40 and 80 pounds. The child must be within the weight range for the child restraint/booster seat and it must meet Federal standards in effect at time of manufacture.

» Children may be secured in a properly fitted seat belt at age 8 (regardless of weight) OR at 80 pounds (regardless of age) - whichever comes first. Placing the shoulder belt under a child’s (or adult’s) arm or behind the back is both dangerous and illegal.

» If no seating position equipped with a lap and shoulder belt to properly secure a belt positioning booster seat is available, a child who weighs at least 40 pounds may be restrained by a properly fitted lap belt only. WARNING: Belt-positioning booster seats can only be used with lap and shoulder combination safety belts. Belt-positioning booster seats must NEVER be used with just a lap belt.

(To find the law for your state, simply do a search on "child passenger law" and your state. It should be fairly easy to find.)

So...In my mind, a lot of this is wrong. Age and weight are not the ways to determine if a child fits properly in the seatbelt. It is all about FIT; how do certain points on a child fall on the seat/seat belt? If they do not properly line up, the child needs a booster seat. It's fairly simple. If a child does not fit properly with just a seat belt, that child is not protected as they should be.

I know oftentimes parents are excited when their child(ren) can move to the next level, going from infant carrier to a convertible seat to a booster to just the seat belt. In my opinion, this is NOT something to celebrate. Each move puts your child in a less protected environment. Each time, they are more in danger of being seriously hurt in an accident. And regardless of how safe of a driver YOU are (or think you are), you are one driver out of all the others out there sharing the road with you and your family. Don't think you are safe from an accident.

Want to know WHEN your child IS ready to move to just the seat belt, without a booster? It's an easy test. You simply put them in the seat, buckle the belt, and know what to look for...

This information was taken from the Safe Kids website:

The Safety Belt Fit Test

Use a booster seat with the vehicle lap and shoulder safety belts until your child passes the Safety Belt Fit Test.

Vehicle safety belts are designed to fit an average-sized adult. Children usually need a booster until they are about 4 feet 9 inches tall and weigh between 80 and 100 pounds to get the best protection from a safety belt.

Take the next step to the safety belt when you answer “yes” to these questions:

  • Does your child exceed the booster seat’s height or weight limits?

Does your child pass the Safety Belt Fit Test?

1. Have your child sit in a back seat with their bottom and back against the vehicle’s seat back. Do the child’s knees bend at the seat’s edge? If yes, go on. If not, the child must stay in a booster seat.

2. Buckle the seat belt. Does the lap belt stay low on the hips? If yes, go on. If it rests on the stomach, the child must stay in a booster seat.

3. Look at the shoulder belt. Does it lay on the collarbone and shoulder? If yes, go on. If it’s on the face or neck, the child must remain in a booster seat.

  • Never put the shoulder belt under the child’s arm or behind the child’s back. Do not allow children to play with the shoulder portion of a seat belt. Treat it like any cord.

4. Can the child maintain the correct seating position with the shoulder belt on the shoulder and the lap belt low across the hips? If yes, the child has passed the Safety Belt Fit Test. If no, the child should return to a booster seat and re-test in a month.

We just did the test on Camden this week. He actually is not even 80lbs - not even 75... His legs are fine (quite long enough), but the seat belt does NOT lay on the shoulder. It pushes into his neck and face, meaning he needs to grow in the torso area before he is ready to go without a booster. He does not argue the fact or tell us it is unfair. He knows many children his age are no longer using booster seats, and he doesn't try to hide the fact that he DOES from any of his friends. He knows the reasoning behind our decision. He knows we are keeping him as safe as we can. I have always explained to him that safety comes before feelings or comfort. In this case, it's not an issue; but if he were to complain or disagree, he would know that since this is a matter of safety, we would not budge.

I really do hope you look into this matter further, even if your child isn't yet ready to move to a booster seat. (Keep them in a convertible with a five-point harness as long as possible!!) It is still worth it to educate yourselves so that you are more aware.

Here are some links that discuss this topic (booster seat safety and moving to a seat belt only). If you have others to share, please do so, and I will add them to the list.

AAP Policy - Selecting and Using the Most Appropriate Car Safety Seats for Growing Children: Guidelines for Counseling Parents (See AAP Recommendations #5)
BuckleUpNC.org - NC Child Passenger Safety Law - G.S. 20-137.1
Safe Kids
CP Safety - Booster seats
CP Safety - Choosing the best booster seat (a comment they make - safety before popularity)
CarSafety4Kids.com - Booster Seat Information
CP Safety - Information on Lap Belts, including a series of pictures showing course of movement during an impact - with a shoulder belt vs lap belt only

Please feel free to share your thoughts and knowledge on this matter. I am by no means an expert. I have read into this, but I know there is a lot of information that I have not covered here on this post. I am simply sharing what I do know and what I do with my older child. Keep in mind the rules for the parenting discussion - be nice and keep it clean. If you're reading via email or facebook, comment on blogger so all comments/discussions will be in one place. Thanks for reading and joining in!


Becky said...

I haven't quite thought this far ahead yet but I already don't trust the governments regulations in regard to rear-facing vs. forward-facing decisions. Colin is still facing the rear, despite being a year old and well over 20lbs.

Daisy and Ryan said...

I'll be doing a post on the rear-facing vs forward-facing soon. :) I've been sending around some info to parents/parents-to-be on facebook and just haven't gotten to put the info here yet, partly b/c it will be more than just the video I sent out with a short paragraph - and partly b/c I started the post about booster seats first (last week...taking me longer to get posts written lately - I noticed you said the same thing about one of your last posts, too!). But I'll be getting that post on here in the next couple days, I hope. So glad you are keeping him rear-facing! :) We'll do so as long as we can, regardless of how much I may want to see his face better... ;) I know he's so much safer where he is!

Susan and Melissa said...

Hey Daisy, Don't have time to read right now, but here is some hot off the press news from my techie friend:

No one thought it would actually happen, lol. But as of September 2009, the Radian XT will be rated for rear-facing to 45 pounds!!! Britax better step it up or they're gonna lose a lot of business. I wouldn't be surprised if we see some of their European seats here in the next couple of years.

So now we have their other Radian models (Sept. '08 and newer) RF to 40 pounds, new XTs RF to 45 pounds, Graco MyRide RF to 40 pounds, and the Dorel Complete Aire that RF to 40 pounds. There must be something to the whole RF stuff.


Daisy and Ryan said...

Really?! About the Radian XT... That is GREAT news. I'm bummed that we don't get to use the new one that will go up to 45lbs, but...good for those that will be getting it! I wonder how much they're changing it to make it go to 45lbs. Hmmmm... Wonder if we could sell our current one for enough to make sense to spend the $$ and get the new model? ;) The wheels are turning... I am a bit surprised b/c the Radian XT is new and just recently came out anyway. But they're making some good changes!

And she's right - Britax needs to step up if they want to keep up. ;) I'm not sure how much of the general public is catching on to the extended rear-facing trend - hopefully it's going to be more common, though. It's crazy how long people in other countries can keep their kids rf - easier to do if you have the seats, though. Even 45lbs isn't as good as it could be when you compare it to the weight limits in other countries. But hopefully we're catching on over here!

Kevin A. Puckett said...

Daisy, I think I still need to be in a booster ;)